Community Paramedicine Program Takes Shape – Dec. 15, 2015

[Camano Island, Wash.] – There’s going to be a new type of non-emergency medical program in town. Camano Island Fire and Rescue is developing a community paramedicine program to improve patient care and reduce emergency service costs for taxpayers.

Camano CARES, which stands for Community Assistance, Referral, and Education Service, is taking shape and the fire district expects to launch the program in early 2016. The program is one of several community paramedicine programs launched in Washington State to respond to changes in health care law. Paramedic Ken Drewry, who serves as the medical services officer for the fire district, is coordinating the new program.

Drewry says that he is excited about the program’s potential to improve patient care. He can recall several cases in his career where ambulance crews would transport the same person to the hospital on a daily basis. Camano CARES allows paramedics to connect patients they visit on calls with resources and programs instead of costly hospital visits.

“We can actually provide solutions instead of just putting a band aid on someone’s problem,” said Ken Drewry. “This will reduce non-emergency calls to 911 and lower emergency service costs for the community.”

Drewry brought together representatives from the Island County Public Health Department, the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services, Senior Services of Island County, Safe Harbor Free Clinic, Island County Sheriff’s office, and two auxiliary groups that support the fire district. Participants identified three demographic groups that could benefit from the Camano CARES program: the homeless, people living with a chronic illness, and the elderly.

Paramedics and firefighters are often the first people to have contact with homeless families or individuals. Camano CARES wants to connect people to area shelters, food banks, housing, and medical care.

Paramedics also encounter a significant number of people living with a chronic illness, or struggling with mental health and substance abuse issues. Being able to connect those people to other resources – like outpatient care, counselling or rehabilitation facilities – is a better option than a hospital.

“A lot of people need services that a hospital just doesn’t provide,” says Drewry.

The elderly are a key constituency group, as well. According to the Center for Disease Control, more than one-third of adults over 65 years of age fall each year. Falls can lead to hip fractures, traumatic brain injuries, and are the leading cause of fatal and non-fatal injuries in older adults – and they are mostly preventable.

Camano CARES is working with Senior Services of Island County to develop a slip and fall prevention program. Many seniors also feel isolated because of mobility issues, and can suffer from depression. The program also plans to connect seniors to nutrition, counselling and transportation services on the island.

“It’s important for seniors to be able to ‘age in place’,” said Drewry. “Community paramedics can help them make the connections they need to remain in their homes as long as possible.”

The fire district plans to monitor the community impact and cost savings the plan has on emergency services delivery over the next few years. Short-term, Drewry says that he is excited to see changes at the fire district.

“How we deliver emergency services is changing,” he said. “Camano Island Fire and Rescue is adapting to better serve our community.”

###

Camano Island Fire and Rescue provides fire suppression, emergency medical service and technical rescue to 16,000 people over 40 square miles. Forty-nine full-time, part-time and volunteer firefighters responded to 1,828 calls in 2014, 71.6% of which were EMS-related.